Peter Heyl Hassrick

Peter Heyl Hassrick

On Oct. 25, 2019, the art world lost one of its most devoted and prolific champions. 

Peter Heyl Hassrick, “a titan of American western art,” died at Spirit Mountain Hospice House in Cody from cancer, cradled by his family. 

He was a dedicated, thoughtful and insightful advocate who was also generous to younger scholars equally enchanted by the West, so-called “Hassrick mentees.” His passion was art, while his love encompassed family and friends, mountains and the vast empty vistas of Wyoming.

Peter was born April 27, 1941, in Philadelphia to Royal Brown and Barbara Morgan Hassrick. When the family moved West, Peter never looked back. He grew up in the Denver area, graduating from Lowell Whiteman [now Steamboat Mountain] School, skiing as often as he could and spending the summers as a ranch hand. 

At CU Boulder, Peter met Elizabeth “Buzzy” Drake of New York, the love of his life – his companion, hiking partner and editor. Peter recently said to Buzzy, “The best thing I ever did was marry you, the worst thing is to leave you.” They wed on Long Island in 1963. 

After graduation, Peter moved to Steamboat Springs where he taught Spanish and history at Whiteman School. Over the next five years their family grew by two, Philip in 1965 and Charles in 1966, and Peter found his true calling – art history. 

He earned a full-ride scholarship to the University of Denver and a master’s degree in art history, connecting his honed aesthetic eye with his passion for history, especially the history of the West. 

His career began in Fort Worth at the Amon Carter Museum as curator of collections. Most significantly, in 1974, he co-curated and toured an exhibition on western American art and artifacts in the former Yugoslavia. Next Peter accepted the challenge of the directorship of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center (now Buffalo Bill Center of the West), where he spent 20 years expanding the museum in size, reach and renown in partnership with board chair Peg Coe. He set high standards for himself and expected no less from his staff.

After the BBHC, Peter continued to pursue his work with unparalleled commitment, becoming the founding directors first of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe and then of the Charles Russell Center for the Study of Western American Art at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. Next he established the Petrie Institute of American Western Art at the Denver Art Museum. Along the way he served on local, state and national non-profit boards.

Amid his professional obligations, Peter found the quiet time and creative energy to write (usually in long hand on lined paper) 25 books and dozens of scholarly articles. He lectured widely, curated shows that toured museums around the country and was awarded an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Wyoming for his scholarship. His writings garnered numerous awards as well. 

Peter had a rich life, gathering friends and colleagues wherever he went. He spent 50 years thinking, writing and sharing his ideas about art and the West. He was profoundly committed to the precept that western American art plays a prominent role in the American art canon and dedicated his professional life to elevating the discipline onto the national stage. 

He also believed deeply in matters of environmental conservation, to him a logical corollary to his love of the West and his astute and encyclopedic understanding of the artists who portrayed it. On one backcountry trip he remarked, “I’d rather be on a mountaintop on a Sunday morning than in the most elaborate cathedral that man has designed.” And most Sundays that is exactly where you could find him. 

Beneath his professional façade lurked a sly sense of humor that enchanted and entertained us all. He often peppered his public talks with lines geared to generate delighted responses, to engage his audience. “So, a cowboy and an art historian walk into a bar….” He will be remembered for his sage leadership, his steel trap of a mind, his quick wit, his generous and playful smile, and his steadfast kindness. 

Peter is survived by his wife Buzzy, his sons Philip (Brigid) of Woodinville, Wash., and Charles (Elizabeth) of Philadelphia, his grandchildren Silas, Aislinn, and Edel, his four siblings Morgan (Tess), Judy (Bob), John (Cindy) and Annie. 

Plans for a celebration of life are pending. To honor Peter’s life, the family requests that those interested please donate to the Whitney Fund for Public Programs, BBCW, 720 Sheridan Ave., Cody, WY 82414. 

(1) comment

peter Maynard Fairbanks

This is a wonderfully written tribute to Peter Hassrick, capturing the many parts of a champion of the arts of the great west. However, by my count, he authored more like 55 books and catalogs. He was the load stone to all who appreciate the arts and conservation of the west, but most of all he adored his family.__________________________________

The Art of Michael Coleman - Under Eagle's Wings

by Coleman, Michael. Peter Hassrick, Text. and Michael Coleman | Jan 1, 2009

Frederic Remington: A Catalogue Raisonné II

by Peter H. Hassrick and Bruce B. Eldredge | May 9, 2016

Frederic Remington: A Catalogue Raisonne (2 Volume Set),

Peter Hassrick and Melissa J. Webster | Jun 1, 1996

Painted Journeys: The Art of John Mix Stanley

by Peter H. Hassrick, Mindy N. Besaw, et al. | Jul 9, 2015


Charles M. Russell

by Peter H. Hassrick | May 1, 1989

The American West in Bronze, 1850–1925 (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

by Thayer Tolles , Thomas Brent Smith, with contributions by Carol Clark, Brian W. Dippie, Peter H. Hassrick, Karen Lemmey, and Jessica Murphy (2013) Jan 14, 2014

Wildlife and Western Heroes: Alexander Phimister Proctor, Sculptor

by Peter Hassrick | Jul 24, 2006

The Life and Art of Wilson Hurley: Celebrating the Richness of Reality

by Rosalyn Roembke Hurley, Susan Hallsten McGarry, Peter Hassrick | Mar 15, 2020

The Charles M. Bair Family Collection

by Elizabeth; Peter Hassrick; Barney Old Coyote; Barbara Loeb Guheen | Jan 1, 2004

In Contemporary Rhythm: The Art of Ernest L. Blumenschein

by Peter H. Hassrick , Elizabeth J. Cunningham, et al. | Jul 15, 2008

Art of the American West: The Haub Family Collection at Tacoma Art Museum

by Laura F. Fry, Peter H. Hassrick, et al. | Dec 2, 2014

Sculptor in Buckskin: The Autobiography of Alexander Phimister Proctor

by Alexander Phimister Proctor , Katharine C. Ebner, Forward by Peter H. Hassrick | Jul 15, 2009

The Life and Art of Joseph Henry Sharp

by Peter H. Hassrick, Marie Watkins, et al. | Jul 16, 2019

Frederic Remington: The Masterworks

by Michael Edward Shapiro and Peter H. Hassrick | May 1, 1991

Charles Deas and 1840s America West

by Carol Clark , Peter H. Hassrick, et al. | Dec 3, 2009

Drawn to Yellowstone: Artists in America's First National Park

by Peter H. Hassrick | Sep 1, 2002

Forging an American Identity: The Art of William Ranney, With a Catalogue of His Works

by Linda Bantel and Peter H. Hassrick | Aug 31, 2006

Colorado: The Artist’s Muse (Western Passages)

by Natasha Brandstatter, Meredith M. Evans, Peter H. Hassrick, Nicole A. Parks (Contributor)et al. | Feb 15, 2009

Twelve American masterpieces

by William H. Gerdts, Parry III, Elwood C., Erik A. R. Ronnberg, Carol Lowrey, H. Nichols B. Clark, Elizabeth Milroy, Ira Spanierman, Lisa N. Peters, Ronald G. Pisano, Bennard B. Perlman, Peter H. Hassrick, Donald Kuspit. | Jan 1, 1998

The Rocky Mountains: A Vision for Artists in the Nineteenth Century

by Patricia Trenton and Peter H. Hassrick | May 1, 1983

Treasures of the Old West: Paintings and Sculpture from the Thomas Gilrease Institute of American History and Artby Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art and Peter H. Hassrick | Mar 1, 1994

Shaping the West: American Sculptors of the 19th Century (Western Passages)

by Thayer Tolles, Peter H. Hassrick, et al. | Jan 15, 2011

Remington, Russell and the Language of Western Art

by Peter H. Hassrick | Jan 1, 2001

Frederic Remington

by Peter H. Hassrick and Ruth Carter Johnson | Jan 1, 1973

Gordon Snidow: My Story

by Michael Duty, Peter H. Hassrick, et al. | Jan 1, 2002

Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

by Peter H. Hassrick | Sep 1, 1997

American Frontier Life: Early Western Painting and Prints

by Alan Axelrod and Peter H. Hassrick | Aug 2, 1989

Charles M. Russell: A Catalogue Raisonné (The Charles M. Russell Center Series on Art and Photography of the American West)

by B. Byron Price, Anne Morand, et al. | Oct 1, 2007

Artists of the American Frontier The Way West

by Peter H. Hassrick | Nov 1, 1988

The Art of Being an Artist: Sally James Farnham, American Sculptor

by Peter H. Hassrick | Jan 1, 2005

The American West: Out of Myth, into Reality

by Peter H. Hassrick and Mississippi Museum of Art | Jun 1, 2000

Frederic Remington

By Peter H. Hassrick, Jan 16, 1973

The Best of Proctor’s West: An In-Depth Study of Eleven of Proctor’s Bronzes

by Peter H. Hassrick, Karen B. McWhorter, et al. | Jul 10, 2017

Frederic Remington: Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture in the Amon Carter Museum and the Sid W. Richardson Foundation Collections

by Peter H. Hassrick and Frederic Remington | Jan 1, 1975

The Frederic Remington Studio

by Peter H. Hassrick , Frederic Remington, et al. | Jan 1, 1995

Treasures of the Old West : paintings and sculpture from the Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art

by Peter Hassrick | Jan 1, 1994

Charlie Russell and Friends

by Joan Carpenter Troccoli, Peter H. Hassrick, et al. | Feb 20, 2010

Redrawing Boundaries: Perspectives on Western American Art Western Passages

by Peter Hassrick | Feb 28, 2007

Charles M. Russell: The Artist in His Heyday, 1903-1926

by Peter H. Hassrick | Jun 1, 1996

The Way West: Art of Frontier America

by Peter Hassrick | Jan 1, 1977

Buffalo Bill Historical Center - Cody, Wyoming

by Peter Hassrick | Jan 1, 1984


The George Catlin Book of American Indians

by Peter Hassrick | Jan 1, 1981

Wilson Hurley: A Retrospective Exhibition

by Peter Hassrick | Jun 1, 1985

100 years of western art from Pittsburgh collections

by Peter H Hassrick | Jan 1, 1982

Buffalo Bill Historical Center

by Peter H. Hassrick | Aug 1, 1985

Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Catalogue of the Collection, 1972

by Peter H. Hassrick | Jun 1, 1973


by Peter H.; Rudolph G. Wunderlich; Megan Fox; Barbara Bell Hassrick | Jan 1, 1991

Remington: The Years of Critical Acclaim

by Melissa Webster, Peter H. Hassrick, et al. | Dec 1, 2011

Clyde Aspevig Selected Paintings 2008

by Peter H. Hassrick(Essay) | Jan 1, 2008

A Century of Sanctuary: The Art of Zion National Park

by Lyman Hafen, Robert Redford, et al. | Aug 25, 2008

Unending Frontier: Art of the West

by Peter H. Hassrick | Jan 1, 2000

The Rocky Mountains: A Vision for Artists in the Ninteenth Century

by Patricia & Peter H. Hassrick Trenton | Jan 1, 1983

Unending Frontier: Art of the West

Foster Rahill; By Peter H. Hassrick with Stephanie Bradley A. Finson; Aaron W. Jones

by Grand Rapids Art Museum | Jan 1, 2000


Editor: Peter H. Hassrick. Introduction by Mark Stevens. Essays: Lisa Mintz Messinger, Barbara Novak, and Barbara Rose.Jan 1, 1997

Shaping the West : American Sculptors of the 19th Century

by Sarah H. Boehme, Alice Levi Duncan, Peter H. Hassrick | Jan 1, 2011

Painted Journeys: The Art of John Mix Stanley

by Peter H. Hassrick, July 09,2015

After the Hunt - the Art Collection of William B. Ruger.

by Adrienne Ruger Conzelman; essays by Linda S. ferber and Peter H. Hassrick | Jan 1, 2002

BENTON SPRUANCE 1904-1967 Memorial and Retrospective Exhibition Lithographs, Paintings and Drawings: October 9 through November 24, 1968

by Peter H. Hassrick | Jan 1, 1968

Redrawing Boundaries: Perspectives on Western American Art (Western Passages)

by Denver Art Museum | Jul 15, 2008

In addition, there are lectures, papers, and other essays, too numerous to list here.

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